Earlier in the year Leandra went to Hong Kong because of a good airfare deal and to keep her Platinum status for 2016. After that, she needed another long trip and Beijing was pricing well for Thanksgiving. As a bonus, I would reach million miler status with AA, which means I now have gold status for life!
Transportation: Beijing has an extensive metro network, and the easiest way to access it is with a metro card. We tried to obtain one at the airport but even though we could see a stack of them, the employees couldn’t/wouldn’t sell us one for a reason definitely lost in translation. Instead we bought the standard Airport Express pass and took the train to Dongzhimen. From terminal three the train made another stop at the other side of the airport which confused at least half of the train who jumped off, then got back on again.
typical subway scene in Beijing – not too crowded, not many seats
After 30 minutes we arrived at Dongzhimen where we found a kiosk behind a large column selling the metro pass, and they were willing to sell us one too! After obtaining the pass we found the metro quite functional and usable for most of our tourist activities, with good maps and directions. The 798 art district was the one exception as it is currently between metro stops so about a 15-20 minute walk. We only took a cab once (to get to the art district) and we had the Opposite House Hotel staff help us out with communication to the driver. The trip was easy and even cost a few yuen less than estimated.
Smog!: perhaps the defining memory of our trip, the levels of air pollution were extraordinary and limited our activities at times. According to the US Mission in Beijing, the air quality levels were ‘very unhealthy’ to ‘beyond index’ during our stay.
Internet: China runs a national firewall that blocks access to google and other major sites, so wireless access wasn’t very useful to us on this trip. I did try a VPN service but the speed was so slow that it wasn’t worth it. Thankfully our T Mobile phones provided us a reliable connection to our normal sites.
We arrived at our hotel around 9p and checked in, receiving a room on the 13th floor. Our first priority was food, and given our long day(s) of travels decided to keep it easy and eat dinner at the hotel restaurant, bloo. Leandra ordered the hainanese chicken and a glass of white wine, while I went for the Indonesian beef rendang and a ginger ale. Not a bad Thanksgiving dinner!
Our room was comfortably furnished with a desk, chair and numerous outlets, including Australian, UK and US style types. The bathroom was a good size, with a tub and plenty of counter space to spread out. Two water bottles were provided free per day for brushing teeth and drinking.
On the minus side, the bed is rather hard (as is common in Asia). Plus, the TV volume wouldn’t go past 25, which made it hard to hear some channels. Finally, we had a welcome letter in our room describing a daily happy hour in the upstairs lounge, but when we showed up the staff told us we didn’t have access but couldn’t explain why the invite was in our room… strange. Instead we went to the lobby bar which had a 2 for 1 special between 5:30-7:30pm.
Our rate included breakfast, and the buffet spread at the Park Plaza was quite good with several hot buffet items that changed each day, an omelet station, a noodle station, cheeses, meats, bread, etc. We tried different things each day and liked most everything. Leandra was happy that she could order a latte and get a break from the instant in-room coffee.
The location of the Park Plaza is quite good, a short 2-3 minute walk to the metro and just a few metro stops from most of the major tourist sites and close to many restaurants and shops.
our view of neighboring building; hutongs and smog from the breakfast room